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Monday, November 28, 2016

Google ramps up hardware division

GOOGLE HAS DECIDED it’s not just a software company, but a full-on hardware company too. It has had forays into hardware in the past before with its Nexus smartphones and the Chromecast, but the company is now branching out into new areas and producing more hardware than ever before

At a recent launch, Google unveiled two new phones, the Pixel and Pixel XL (see group test, page 96), an updated Chromecast capable of 4K streaming, a new Wi-Fi router, a VR headset and an Amazon Echo competitor, Google Home. It’s clear that Google is taking the hardware business very seriously indeed.

“We’re taking steps to show the very best of Google,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president of the Google Hardware Group. Google Home is one of the most interesting launches. Powered by the new Google Assistant, which ships as part of Android 7 Nougat, Home is an Amazon Echo competitor. etitor. The speaker sits in your house, listening for voice commands, and can respond to questions, book tables in restaurants, give directions and control smart home devices attached ached to it.

Google claims the assistant is the most powerful yet, able to understand natural English and context. For example, if you ask, “What’s on at the cinema ema in Westfield?” you’ll get a listing. You could then say, “What restaurants are nearby?”, and the assistant understands that this request is related to the cinema question. Multiple Google Home devices can be placed around your home, too

Google Wi-Fi is another new product, and consists of a router and satellite boosters. The kit joins using a wireless mesh network, which Google promises will deliver speed and performance. It’s similar in conception to the recently released Netgear Orbi. Given that all of Google’s services require a rock-solid internet connection, you can see why the company wants to produce the hardware that enables this.

Sadly, neither Google Home nor Google Wi-Fi are available in the UK yet, with the products not coming until next year. It seems as though it’s hard to move without bumping into another company developing virtual reality, but Google’s at it with its new Daydream View VR headset. Designed to take an Android headset that’s Daydream compatible (such as the Pixel handsets, as well as forthcoming models from the likes of Samsung, LG and HTC), the VR headset is a step above Cardboard.
 
Daydream is designed to give people an amazing VR experience in games, films and experi other apps. The headset ships oth with a controller, too, giving you
wit more natural way to select am options or even play games. Im opt costs £69 from store.google.com.

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